Within hours you will know what happens to Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest in their final adventure. All the secrets I have been carrying around for so long will be yours, too, and those who guessed correctly will be vindicated, and those who guessed wrongly will not, I hope, be too disappointed! As for me, I feel a heady mixture of excitement, nerves and relief. ‘Deathly Hallows’ remains my favourite of the series, even after several re-reads; I cannot wait to share it with the readers who have stuck with me through six previous books.
There is only one thing left to do: acknowledgements! Here are the people who have joined me at various stages of the seventeen year journey I have taken with Harry, who (if you laid their brains end to end) could tell a story much stranger than fiction, of how weird and wonderful the world of Harry Potter became as it expanded way beyond all of our wildest dreams.
I am, firstly, deeply indebted to my agent, Christopher Little, who has been with me from the beginning and who took a chance on an unknown author whom he sweetly advised not to give up the day job, before working tirelessly to make sure that I never needed to teach French irregular verbs again. I bless the day his name caught my eye in the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book; thank God he wasn’t christened Vernon. Everyone at his (now considerably expanded) agency deserves my deepest thanks, but in particular Emma Schlesinger, who has become an irreplaceable walking encyclopaedia of Potterania, and Neil Blair, who has fought so many battles on Harry’s and my behalf, and will, hopefully, get his weekends back now.
My eternal gratitude goes to Barry Cunningham, the editor at Bloomsbury Children’s books who accepted Philosopher’s Stone for publication, but who did not remain at the company long enough to garner all the plaudits that were rightfully his. I had been turned down by a fairly long list of publishers before Barry discerned some merit in Harry; he is a great editor and I will never forget his patience with a writer who was simultaneously struggling to be a teacher and a single mother.
Barry was succeeded by Emma Matthewson, who has been my editor and friend for the subsequent six Harrys, whose arbitration I have awaited with bated breath every time I delivered a manuscript, and without whose calmness, honesty and sound judgement I would have been lost. The editing of ‘Deathly Hallows’ was, in particular, hugely emotional for me, and I cannot think of anyone I would rather have shared it with.
Everyone at Bloomsbury Children’s Books has been fantastic to me and worked so hard for Harry, but Rosamund de la Hey and Sarah Odenina were with me from the start and have been staunch friends throughout. Nigel Newton, Chief Executive of Bloomsbury, has been hugely supportive from the very beginning, long before Harry began to sell in vast numbers, because his children were fans of the books; he has been a constant source of enthusiasm and generosity.
A turning point in my life was the day I spoke to Arthur Levine for the first time. He was the American editor who had just out-bid three other publishers for the first Harry book. I felt terrified as I picked up the telephone to speak to him; the first thing he said was, ‘are you terrified?’ I think I loved him from that moment. He, too, has become a real friend and confidant, and the memories I have of seeing San Francisco with Arthur on my first American tour are among my happiest of the whole Potter experience.
The other person at Scholastic whom I must thank is the preternaturally efficient and completely lovely Kris Moran, who has shepherded me through two American tours, and sundry other press events, and whom I adore for her loyalty, her ability to locate coffee in an apparently moisture-free environment and her corner-of-the-mouth-while-opening-books-for-signing quips.
I also want to thank booksellers everywhere, but particularly in the UK, because they were crucial to Harry’s initial success, which was built, not on clever marketing, but on word-of-mouth recommendations by the highly knowledgeable people who staff our bookshops. Harry has become hard work for booksellers in later years, with embargoes and crowds making the whole business much more fraught, and much less intimate, than it used to be (though many still throw themselves into the spirit of midnight openings); I am deeply grateful.
Harry Potter is now published in 64 different languages. I am constantly mindful of the fact that so many people are involved in the production of the books across the globe, from China to Canada and most places in between. The arrival of foreign editions is always a real thrill, and I am so grateful to all the people involved, some of whom I have met, but most of whom I have not. I would like to send a little cyber-wave and my warmest thanks to Christine, Yuko, Allan, all the Klauses, Pedro and Sigrid. To list everybody would take up twelve pages, so please forgive me…
Dotti Irving, Mark Hutchinson, Rebecca Salt and Nicky Stonehill at Colman Getty PR have made my life so much easier it makes me wince to remember how it was BCG. Bizarre Potter press stories will fade out of our lives now, and we’ll probably miss them once they’re gone…
Here in my office at home are Christine and Angela, who have dealt expertly and sensitively with my Harry-mail for years, making sure I see the letters I ought to, bringing calm where once there was chaos. I am so glad I found both of them, and that they are still hanging in there.
It is hard to know what to say about my indefatigable, invaluable, indispensable PA, Fiddy, whose job has swollen beyond recognition since I first had lunch with her and told her it would probably fill an afternoon a week. She has stood valiantly between me and a tidal wave of demands for years now, enabling me to write books and look after my children, and barely a day goes by when I don’t thank God I have her.
And so to my family. For a long time, my sister Di was the only one who really saw what it was like at the eye of the storm, and on at least one occasion she picked me up, dusted me down, and talked me back to sanity. She understood that, for all the incredible benefits Harry brought me, there came a time when the pressure and the attention I had not sought became a little overwhelming, and she was the one who saw me through that period, and enabled me to find some perspective.
No writer ever had a better spouse than my husband. I still cannot believe how lucky I am to have married Neil; I don’t think writers are supposed to be this happy. His support has made the writing of the sixth and seventh books, in particular, a complete joy.
As for my children, my two youngest do not really know what Harry Potter is all about yet. Looking forward to sharing the books with them when they are old enough keeps me from feeling too sad at having finished.
The very last person to be thanked is the most important person of all, the one to whom I owe the greatest debt of gratitude. I wrote the final draft of the first three chapters of ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ while pregnant with my eldest daughter, Jessica. She has never known what it is like to live without Harry Potter; even before he was published, he was a presence in our house as I typed away frantically in the evenings or broke off conversations with her to scribble on bits of paper. Jessica has never once complained about the attention I devoted to her fictional brother, never reproached me for the fact that Harry Potter has sometimes been a bane rather than a boon in her life. It has not always been easy to be J K Rowling’s daughter, yet if I had decided to stop before the seventh book it would have been Jessica’s disappointment that I would have feared the most. The fact that ‘Deathly Hallows’ will sit beside Jessica’s bed until it becomes dog-eared and falls apart means more to me than anything else, more than the huge print run, more than all the publicity in the world. So thank you, Decca. (And tidy your room. It’s disgusting. Mum X)
Previous writing: « The first It Girl
Next writing: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows »